Snopes: Only once in history has Louisiana flooded

The quality of Snopes’s work has declined dramatically as they have become more partisan, but this one really takes the cake:

(Screengrab via Mediaite.)

They are complaining about this tweet:

This is false, Snopes explains, because Obama wasn’t president during Hurricane Katrina. Ha ha, what an idiot! Naturally, this led to a rash of people mocking Republicans for forgetting who was president during Katrina.

Except, the tweet never says Katrina. The entire premise of this fact-check is that if you’re talking about Louisiana floods, you must be talking about Katrina. But Louisiana has flooded lots of times, including once during 2016 when Obama was president. An unnamed storm dumped three times as much rain on Louisiana as did Hurricane Katrina, and Obama faced criticism for going golfing instead of visiting the disaster:

Here’s why President Obama isn’t stopping his vacation to visit the Louisiana flooding

Two important things happened today in the political world of President Obama.

The first was that the Advocate, a Louisiana newspaper chain, published an editorial calling on the president to come to the state to see the horrible flooding first-hand. It read, in part:

We’ve seen this story before in Louisiana, and we don’t deserve a sequel. In 2005, a fly-over by a vacationing President George W. Bush became a symbol of official neglect for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. The current president was among those making political hay out of Bush’s aloofness.

Sometimes, presidential visits can get in the way of emergency response, doing more harm than good. But we don’t see that as a factor now that flood waters are subsiding, even if at an agonizing pace. It’s past time for the president to pay a personal visit, showing his solidarity with suffering Americans.

This isn’t to say that this criticism of Obama is necessarily fair (see below), but indisputably it is factually accurate.

It gets worse. The internet naturally pointed Snopes’s error to them, but (as we’ve seen before) they were too invested in it to correct it. Instead, they revised it to add this:

. . . during similarly pervasive flooding in Louisiana in 2016. Other users took that argument even further, knocking Obama for not “doing enough” to help Louisiana during Hurricane Katrina.

Their revised version also demotes the featured “origin” tweet to be just the first in a collage of many. But this version is incoherent. They still have that tweet and a similar one first in the collage, even though they are perfectly accurate. The rest of the tweets in the collage, on the other hand, do mention Katrina, so why keep the first two? Because the first two (the ones that are right) are the only ones from Twitter “blue checkmarks.” The rest are all from random internet people. Fact-checking random internet people is silly.

And what about those random internet people? Are they just the kind of crazy people that blame everything on the opposing party? Maybe, but maybe not. Two of them specifically mention Obama being on vacation, as he was during the 2016 floods. One of them mentioned he didn’t answer for three days, a specific detail that fits if she was talking about the 2016 floods. (Obama broke his silence regarding the floods on their third day.) And nearly all of them mention the golf; Obama went golfing at Martha’s Vineyard three times while the floods were ongoing.

So I think that most of those random internet people remembered the vacation-golf-during-a-flood incident, but they didn’t remember the exact circumstances (the storm had no name to tie a memory to), and they erroneously attributed it to Katrina. In other words, I think those people committed exactly the same error as Snopes.

Snopes should rate the claim mostly true, but note that some of them misremember the incident’s name. But that’s not what they’ve done, even when their error was pointed out. Instead, they continued to peddle misinformation, and I’ve now seen that misinformation dozens of places around the internet.

That’s right, Snopes is now starting urban legends of their own.

POSTSCRIPT: Snopes makes it unnecessarily difficult to critique their work. I’d like simply to link to the original post on the Wayback Machine, but Snopes blocks the Wayback Machine so I had to settle for a screengrab that someone kept. I can’t think of any reason for Snopes to do that, other than to memory-hole their mistakes.

POST-POSTSCRIPT: Is it fair to criticize Obama for golfing during a natural disaster? Chris Cillizza, now of CNN, makes a stab at defending him:

[I]t speaks to Obama’s unique and long-lasting commitment to not playing by a core rule of modern politics: making at least some decisions based on “how it looks” and/or “how it will play.” Obama has long been a rejectionist on this front.

First of all, this is nonsense. I’ll grant that the Obama had the unique conceit that he didn’t make decisions based on how they would play, but of course he did exactly that all the time. But never mind that; it’s beside the point. The question is: should the president engage in useless gestures in order to make people feel good? And the answer is yes.

The president is not just the head of government, he is also the head of state. That means that the job of being the country’s ceremonial leader falls to him. Other nations assign that job to a monarch, but America (thank God) has no monarch. The head of state should not be clowning around on the golf course in full view of cameras while a natural disaster is underway. Showing some solemnity during a disaster is part of his job.

(Via F. Bill McMorris.)

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